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The Bloomberg Effect

Former New York Citty mayor Mike Bloomberg will not be the Democratic nominee for president this year. In his best poll, Bloomberg is in fourth place with the support of just nine percent of Democratic primary voters. But that doesn't mean he won't be able to influence the race.

In his first month after entering the race, the billionaire spent more than $100 million on campaign ads. Two weeks later he had crossed the $200 million threshold. In addition, he has outspent every other candidate, including incumbent Donald Trump, on Google ads. All this money hasn't bought him any votes, but it has taken precious ad slots, resulting in fewer opportunities for other candidates to get their messages out. Downballot candidates are hurt the most.

“There is no doubt that rates are being driven up and it is making it much more expensive for congressional candidates and other downballot races to communicate in their own primaries,” said a Democratic strategist working in multiple Super Tuesday states. “In some ways that is difficult for candidates and campaigns that have been disciplined about raising money and are now faced with the fact that their money will not go nearly as far.”

This particularly hurts first-time candidates who are challenging incumbents. In many cases, the newcomers are counting on ad space to give them the name recognition they need to run competitive races. Since that ad space is not available this year, the incumbency advantage (which has shrunk in recent years) may bump back up. 

Bloomberg's ad blitz might have a silver lining for Democrats.

Of course, Bloomberg’s ad onslaught comes with benefits to Democrats around the country, too: His ads have pushed issues that are critical to the party, like health care and climate change, and he has attacked President Donald Trump relentlessly in key swing states where Democrats might not have aired ads for months, softening up the Republican incumbent before the 2020 election.

But raising awareness of issues isn't going to help if it means reducing awareness of the candidates who could turn those issues into legislation.

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